Some women are born with a shorter first metatarsal bone than the second bone and this way most of the weight is balanced with by the head of the 2nd metatarsal bone (normally with the head of the 1st metatarsal bone).
The first metatarsal bone is structurally equipped to deal with the normal pressure of the body weight, but the 2nd one isn’t.
This leads to an osteochondritis. The condition is known as Freiberg’s disease (thanks to gait.aidi.udel.edu for this link) is more common in women and seems to be at least in part genetically transmitted. The symptoms are usually foot pain in the head of the 2nd metatarsal bone and the MP joint, which is made worse by the wearing of high heels.
Foot X-rays show the condition and treatment consists of padding under the painful toe. Occasionally immobilization in a short leg walking cast for 3 to 4 weeks is required. Surgery is only very rarely required.
In another form of osteochondritis, called Köhler’s disease (thanks to gait.aidi.udel.edu for this link) the naviclular bone is tender and swollen causing foot arch pain on the inside of the foot. This occurs mainly in young boys aged 3 to 5 where the gait is grossly disturbed due to pain in the foot. This tends to be a chronic disease, but usually clears up within two years.
There are stages in the healing process with initial flattening, then fragmentation and finally new bone growth. X-rays show these changes mentioned on one side, but not on the healthy opposite side. Treatment consists of rest, avoidance of weight bearing for a period of time and support of the longitudinal arch (with insoles) until new bone has formed.
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